Letter: How De Valera outwitted Collins

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Sir: Brendan O'Neill (letters, 2 November) misses the point about Collins and De Valera. It was not a question of either being a hero or the other a traitor. There was, in fact, no difference of principle at all between them. It was simply a case of De Valera being the wilier politician of the two.

Both Collins and De Valera were Irish nationalists, seeking as far as possible to eliminate the British presence from Ireland. Both recognised that the 1921 treaty represented the best that they could get in that direction. However, both also realised that it fell far short of what their more romantic colleagues expected. Who would have to break the news to them?

De Valera won. It was Collins who got the poisoned chalice. Once the treaty had been signed, De Valera was left free to wash his hands of it and denounce Collins for a "betrayal" of the cause - despite the fact that, in Collins's place, he would have done no differently.

It made not the slightest difference which actor got cast as the Saviour in the nationalist passion play, and which as Judas. The play would have ended the same way.